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Celebrating the professionals dedicated to protecting the safety of children

Today, on World Child Protection Professionals Day, we’re celebrating child protection professionals like Ms. T*, a counsellor who protects the safety and wellbeing of vulnerable children in Vietnam.

Last year, after an argument online with a friend, a video of A.*, a young student from southern Vietnam, being beaten was posted on Facebook. A. suffered injuries and had to be taken to the provincial hospital.

After the incident, A. showed signs of confusion and anxiety, and did not want to go to school. After being notified, the National Child Helpline 111 appointed Ms. T and her Critical Rapid Response Team (CRRT) to provide emergency psychological first aid to the child.

A challenging profession

Ms. T has been a National Child Helpline 111 counsellor since 2018 and is an active contributor to the CRRT team – a branch of the helpline dedicated to directly assisting severe and special child protection cases. At the Helpline 111, 32 counsellors work in three shifts, 24 hours a day, tirelessly handling a continuous stream of calls day and night (the helpline receives over 500,000 calls a year). Ms. T and her colleagues play a crucial role in providing advice on various issues related to children, such as child abuse and violence, child-related policy and law, children’s relationships with friends, family, and at school, as well as concerns related to children’s psychological health.

Yet, until a few years ago, Ms. T had encountered various obstacles and challenges in her role. She said that a lack of communication and consultation skills and knowledge meant that she wasn’t always able to identify cases of abuse correctly and, therefore, unable to provide the appropriate support to victims.

“There was one case where a child shared that they felt ashamed following an incident of abuse, and they expressed a reluctance to attend school,” recalled Ms. T, who explained that she had predominantly asked closed “Yes/No” questions. Subsequently, she could not understand the full scope of the problem. Instead of identifying the root causes and encouraging the child to share their perspectives on appropriate measures to enhance their self-confidence, Ms. T had been offering misguided advice and predefined solutions.

That all changed when she enrolled in her local ChildFund-supported training session for child protection professionals.

Ms. T writes up a report after a call she received through Vietnam’s National Child Helpline 111.

Strengthening child protection services

ChildFund Vietnam, together with the Ministry of Labour and Social Welfare, is helping to build the capacity of the Helpline 111 counsellors like Ms. T to strengthen child-protection systems across the country. Through knowledge and skills-based training sessions, counsellors learn the necessary information and resources to feel confident and capable when supporting children in critical and emergency child protection cases, especially when providing psychological care. They are also encouraged to participate in workshops to share their insights and strategies for case counselling with peers.

Since participating in the ChildFund-supported training sessions, Ms. T and her team have successfully applied the knowledge and skills gained to assist in many emergency cases, including A.

Improving outcomes for vulnerable children

At the hospital, Ms. T and CRRT worked to stabilise A’s mood, teaching relaxation techniques to reduce stress. They were also quick to establish a relationship with A.’s family, listening to their concerns and opinions about their child’s wellbeing – a strategy Ms. T had learnt in one of her training sessions.

Ms. T and the team encouraged the family to continue to monitor A and shared knowledge about violence prevention and information on how to respond in high-risk situations. They also provided contacts of individuals and organisations that could provide more resources to support A’s recovery and future development.

As this case stemmed from social media, Ms. T also provided information on online safety. She coordinated with A.’s school to create a safe environment for A. to learn more life skills, especially how to manage their safety online and build healthy relationships.

Ms. T shared: “Engaging in the capacity-building training within the project has equipped me with a wealth of knowledge in psychology, effective communication skills with children and their families, and enhanced teamwork capabilities. These comprehensive trainings have significantly improved the effectiveness of emergency assistance for children, especially in critical and emergency cases. The knowledge and skills gained from the training also helped me to empower children to raise their awareness and knowledge on preventing violence and abuse and to provide parents and caregivers with clear insights on how to care for, nurture, and protect children.”

After a month of psychological first-aid support from Ms. T and her team and following 12 psychotherapy sessions – part of the free, intensive treatment provided by the Helpline 111 – A.’s wellbeing has dramatically improved. Notably, A. now has less anxiety talking to people and attending school, has better sleep and less stomach pain.

Creating lasting change

While there is still work to be done to strengthen Vietnam’s child protection systems, including improving case management and referral processes and increasing the support for community-based organisations, enhancing the capacity of counsellors like Ms. T is critical in creating a safer environment for children. Her work is vital to the wellbeing of vulnerable children in Vietnam; receiving and processing concerns and reports of child abuse from children, caregivers, and the local community can have life-changing consequences for all involved. Thanks to the dedication of Ms. T and countless other child protection professions across the country, children like A* can say, “I am safe”.

Learn more about how ChildFund Vietnam works with communities and partners to protect the rights of children and build safer communities.

*Names have been changed to protect individuals’ identities.

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